Press release

Smartphone apps to treat obesity and alcohol abuse

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Small businesses have worked with Government to develop innovative fat busting and alcohol tracking smartphone apps.

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The apps, which are designed to help people beat obesity and alcohol abuse, are being developed by small businesses who won a share of a £2 million innovation fund to come up with creative ideas on how to help people stay healthy.

The winners include an app, Drink Coach, that people can use to track their drinking over an evening and get prompts on their phone reminding them to slow down. The latest version, to be launched next spring, will allow users to log any alcohol-related injuries or arguments and share their goals of cutting down drinking via social media.

Another winning idea is a smartphone adventure game, The Walk, which encourages players to walk 10,000 steps every day. The game features dynamic maps and a thriller storyline that you can only complete if you keep walking. The Walk launches in December 2013 and in January will be included in a research project at King’s College Hospital examining how exercise can help treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

The five winners are:

  • Drink Coach developed by Haringey Advisory Group on Alcohol (HAGA)
  • Don’tbottleitup, developed by HAGA
  • The Walk, developed by Six to Start Ltd
  • StepJockey developed by StepJockey Ltd
  • Chimp Shop, developed by Attention Retraining Technologies Ltd

Health Minister, Lord Howe said:

We want to encourage innovation and these creative ideas will help people take action to improve their health and make a difference to their lives.

Small businesses drive innovation in this country and through competitions like this one, we can support and inspire businesses to grow and help address the healthcare challenges facing the NHS.

Don’tbottleitup is a website where people can take a test about their drinking, generate a rating and then get basic alcohol advice and information on where to go if they need more support. The other winning ideas are the StepJockey website and app, where people can rate and label parts of their physical environment for ‘calorie burn’. Starting with stairs, it encourages people to build in exercise opportunities in their everyday lives. The Chimp Shop app, which is still in development, uses psychological techniques to help players retrain their attention and behaviour to assist them in reducing their alcohol consumption.

Obesity and alcohol related diseases cost the NHS more than £8 billion each year and present a major public health challenge for society.

The Department of Health funded this latest competition through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI), which helps small, innovative businesses to win government contracts, promoting economic growth from the SME sector at the same time as addressing public sector needs.

The Government wants to make the UK the best place to start and grow a business. Earlier in November, the Government launched a public campaign to celebrate British success stories. The Government wants to inspire other small businesses and point them towards the support that can help them grow. It will also reaffirm its commitment to small business with a statement in December for how the whole of Government will back them. This will set out a range of measures to continue helping budding entrepreneurs and existing businesses succeed.

Background information

  • For further information, please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.
  • The winners of phase two of the competition for ideas to change behaviour to reduce the impact of obesity and alcohol related diseases are:
    • Drink Coach developed by Haringey Advisory Group on Alcohol (HAGA) See http://www.drinkcoach.org.uk),
    • Don’tbottleitup, developed by HAGA (https://dontbottleitup.org.uk)
    • The Walk, developed by Six to Start Ltd, (See http://www.sixtostart.com/)
    • StepJockey developed by StepJockey Ltd, (https://www.stepjockey.com)
    • Chimp Shop, developed by Attention Retraining Technologies Ltd
  • The SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) is co-ordinated by the Technology Strategy Board and is designed to encourage government departments and other agencies to ensure that a proportion of their procurement budget goes to innovative companies, and that they are procuring innovative solutions to some of the challenges that they face. The aim of SBRI is to use the power of government procurement to drive technology development, especially in early-stage companies, supporting projects through the stages of prototyping and demonstration, which are typically hard to fund. SBRI offers an excellent opportunity for businesses to develop and demonstrate technology, supported by a customer, and to reach the first rung on the government procurement ladder. For more information please visit: https://www.innovateuk.org/-/sbri

  • The Technology Strategy Board is a business-led government body which works to create economic growth by ensuring that the UK is a global leader in innovation. Sponsored by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Technology Strategy Board brings together business, research and the public sector, supporting and accelerating the development of innovative products and services to meet market needs, tackle major societal challenges and help build the future economy. For more information please visit https://www.innovateuk.org/

  • NHS England London Region managed the process for the competition ‘changing behaviour to reduce the impact of obesity and alcohol related diseases’.
Published 26 November 2013